Dust, mud and fire at Hemlock poker run

Hot weather didn't spoil the fun at annual event says Fire Chief

Summer arrived with a vengeance for the SWATT Hemlock Valley ATV Poker Run, held Aug 2 through the 6.

Temperatures well past 30C turned the camping areas and the trials course into dust bowls.

The Hemlock Valley Fire Department members assisted the SWATT members by wetting down the trails course area on Friday while the group constructed the course, and again on Saturday morning just prior to the event to keep the dust down and to fill the water pit which was part of the course.

The Hemlock Fire Department also assisted by pouring a quantity of water into the mud pit for the event later in the day, much of which showed up back at the fire hall in the shape of mud caked onto the machines and the riders.

At times it was hard to tell where a machine ended and the rider began.

Participants were showing up with mud in their boots, shoes, pockets, underwear, helmets and anywhere mud could find a place to stick but they all showed up with big smiles on their faces.

At the end of the Mud Pit Event they had what they call the $100 dash where the club places a $100 bill at the end of the mud pit. In this event, anyone who wants to participate can enter the foot race through the mud pit and the first one to grab the cash wins it.

The participants had mud where it really did not belong when they showed up to the ATV WASH and it took them a long time to get reasonably clean. Some were wearing white socks which I don’t think will ever be truly white again.

Throughout the day the SWATT volunteers were coming to the Fire Hall to get water to wet down the camping area to keep the dust down as more and more participants arrived.

Saturday evening the ATV riders had a huge pot luck appy “dinner” in the camping area and many of the locals attended the pot luck and later assembled at the end of Mt. Downing Road for a campfire social.

Sunday was the day for the Poker Run.

I still have not got a count on the number of machines that participated but it was quite a few.

Shortly after the start of the event there was a radio report of a forest fire somewhere on one of the trails and several of the Hemlock Valley Fire Department members and SWATT members loaded up a couple of ATVs with tools and back packs with water and headed out to try to suppress or at least contain the fire.

Communications were very difficult due to the terrain and it was finally reported that an ATV had caught fire and the fire had spread into the brush but due to quick action by those travelling with the affected ATV, the Hemlock Fire Fighters, SWATT members and a Forestry Rapid Attack Team that dropped in from a helicopter the fire was contained to approximately a 25 foot radius around the machine, which is a total loss.

Kent/Harrison Search and Rescue was providing communications for the event and did a great job coordinating all the radio chatter throughout the incident and the rest of the day.

Without the quick actions of those around the incident this fire could have turned into a major forest fire as the Fire Hazard Rating in the area had jumped from Moderate to Extreme with the hot weather that moved in.

The day ended on a much quieter note and a large crowd assembled in the camping area in the evening for the awards presentation.

• Marty McKinney is the Fire Chief for the Hemlock Valley Fire Department